THERESA MAY was caught between TWO Tory rebellions over the EU last night as Eurosceptics demanded she deliver a ‘Hard Brexit’. A letter backed by over 30 hard-line Tories urged the PM to “respect the will of the British people” and set out a clear timetable for cutting all ties with Brussels from March 2019. The Tories should leave the single market – and stop all budget payments to the Commission when we do. And the MPs urged Theresa May to ensure we are “free” to sign trade deals with other countries from April 2019. The letter says: “In short, when we leave in 2019 – we need to make sure we are well and truly out.” The letter was seen as a clear warning to Ministers looking to water down Brexit. But it came as pro-EU Tories lined up in the Commons to demand Theresa May soften her stance – and attacked an EU Withdrawal Bill designed to lay the legislation to enable Brexit to happen.
Dozens of Tory MPs have signed a letter pressuring Theresa May not to back down from Hard Brexit . The demands of the 30 to 40 MPs include aiming to sign free trade deals and stop paying money to Brussels in a transition period after 29 March 2019. The letter was circulated among members of the Conservative European Research Group (ERG) of Brexit-backing MPs by pressure group Change Britain. It also says remaining in the single market during a transition – which Brexit Secretary David Davis ruled out today – would be a “historic mistake”. The letter will be viewed as an attack on attempts to soften Brexit and on Labour’s position of demanding single market membership during a transition period.
Tory Eurosceptics have been accused of trying to “undermine” negotiations with the EU by putting pressure on ministers to drive for a hard Brexit. Nearly 40 Conservatives have signed a letter circulated by the hardline European Research Group (ERG), which warned against remaining in the EU “by stealth” and condemned the possibility of staying in the single market during the transition period as a “historic mistake”. The leaked letter, which was due to be published in a Sunday newspaper, has laid bare the divisions within the party over its Brexit strategy as MPs began a two-debate on the Government’s flagship Brexit legislation.
A Norway-style transitional deal that keeps the UK in the European Economic Area would be the “worst of possible worlds”, the Brexit secretary, David Davis, has said. Speaking ahead of the debate on the EU withdrawal bill on Thursday afternoon, Davis said the government had considered the benefits of retaining membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta). “The simple truth is membership of Efta would keep us within the acquis [EU law] and it would keep us in requirements for free movement, albeit with some restrictions, but none have worked so far,” the Brexit secretary said. “In many ways it’s the worst of possible worlds. We did consider it, maybe as an interim measure. But it would be more complicated and less beneficial.”
Nigel Farage’s leading backer has written to constituents of Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond urging them to deselect the cabinet ministers because they are “damaging the prospect of a successful Brexit”. The letter from Arron Banks, published below, accuses Rudd, the home secretary, and Hammond, the chancellor, of being part of a “cabal of Westminster MPs” who are working to “overturn the wishes of the 52%” and provides a step-by-step guide to kicking them out.Writing as chairman of the Leave.EU campaign, Banks says Rudd and Hammond are legitimate targets because they are pushing for a “lengthy and unnecessary ‘transition’ period of up to three years” after the UK leaves the European Union in spring 2019.
A new report by the Conservative European Research Group and Lawyers for Britain has found that legally it is the European Union that owes Britain a Brexit bill – of £9.3 billion. The report states that: “Overall the UK should be entitled on exit to a net payment in its favour, corresponding approximately to the value of its capital invested in the EIB (European Investment Bank)” with Conservative MP Suella Fernandes insisting that: “the European Commission has no legal claim for a Brexit payment”. After paying into the EU as a cash cow for so long, negotiations should of course take into account the UK’s share of the European Union’s assets.
FURIOUS Michel Barnier today crushed Britain’s dream of a special trade deal with Europe and told the UK he is “very disappointed” by its refusal to accept the legal basis for paying a Brexit bill which is creating a crisis of confidence. He said that Britain cannot shirk its “international commitments” saying both David Cameron and the British parliament signed up to the bloc’s seven-year budget plan, adding that he was “worried” the UK stance could sink the negotiations. The EU chief negotiator also insisted that Britain cannot have “combine simultaneously the benefits of the Norwegian model with the weak constraints of the Canadian model” – crushing the Government’s hopes for an unprecedented trade deal with the bloc.
A FORMER EU chief is claiming the chances of Brexit trade talks starting next month are “in the neighbourhood of zero”. Herman Van Rompuy’s downbeat assessment comes as Brussels continues to try and bully Britain into agreeing a multi-billion pound so-called “divorce bill”. The former President of the European Council dismissed claims the slow progress could be blamed on a lack of “flexibility” from the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier. Speaking to the BBC he said instead that it was the UK who needed to provide more “clarity” – without which discussions on a future trade agreement could be pushed back to December. The original plan was to get them started next month, but Mr Barnier has repeatedly threatened to recommend they are postponed unless “sufficient progress” is made on the exit bill.
Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council, has weighed into the renegotiation row, telling the BBC he doesn’t see trade talks starting this year due to “insufficient progress” on the EU’s ridiculous Brexit Bill. “I think most of the observers are drawing the conclusion that at this stage of the negotiations, of course, there is not sufficient progress and if the Brexit Minister says, look these discussions about the bill will last for one year and a half, how can you then say that there will be sufficient progress?” When asked if he believes enough progress would be made by the next round of talks next month, the former Eurocrat responded: “I’m not a negotiator, I listen to what I hear and what I’m reading in the press. The chances that we are ready in October are in the neighbourhood of zero.”
BRUSSELS’ trade chief today confirmed Britain will lose its access to all the EU’s deals when it quits the bloc in 2019 – but then said the UK cannot negotiate its own while still a member. Swedish official Cecilia Malmstrom attempted to put UK officials in a Catch-22 situations, insisting Britain can only conduct its own business once outside the club. Her comments are technically correct in EU law but are likely to be disregarded by British ministers, as they would mean the UK heading into its post-EU phase completely unprepared. Theresa May has already secured a deal with Japan which will allow her to effectively copy and paste the bloc’s upcoming trade deal with the country and apply it from Brexit day.
Jean-Claude Juncker warned that Brexit talks were at risk of failure after the EU’s chief negotiator questioned the stability and accountability of David Davis in a meeting of all 28 European Union commissioners, it emerged today. The EU today published a slew of Brexit position papers, including one on Ireland, but they were overshadowed by the publication of the official minutes of the July 12 meeting of the “college of commissioners”, which was held after the second round of talks. According to the minutes, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, “emphasised the importance for himself personally of being able to negotiate with a stable, accountable and authorised interlocutor who was available for the negotiations”.
EU president Jean-Claude Juncker told his Brexit negotiating team that David Davis is “jeopardising” talks with his instability and lack of involvement, according to minutes published by the European Commission. The minutes from a meeting in July this summer record that the Commission President “expressed his concern about the question of the stability and accountability of the UK negotiator and his apparent lack of involvement, which risked jeopardising the success of the negotiations”. Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Thursday a European Commission spokesperson downplayed the comments.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said the UK appears to be going backwards on agreeing a Brexit financial settlement, as hopes of an autumn divorce deal hit rock bottom. Speaking as the EU published its latest Brexit position papers, Barnier said he was disappointed with the UK position he had heard at the latest round of negotiations. “It seems to be backtracking on the original commitment of the UK to honour its international commitments,” he said. “There is a problem of confidence here.” This problem was a moral one, he said. “You cannot have 27 countries paying for what was decided by 28.” The Brexit secretary, David Davis, acknowledged in July that the UK had obligations to the EU from its 44 years of membership, but his officials spent last week’s negotiating round dismantling the EU’s calculations without offering any clues on what the UK might pay.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has accused Britain of “backtracking” on its commitment to pay what it owes the EU budget in the years after Brexit. Michel Barnier said he was “disappointed” by the UK position and publicly warned the British team it should go back to the drawing board after it presented a legal analysis arguing that Britain owed far less that the Commission believed. He argued that the Brexit bill was “not a matter of punishment” but instead about funding commitments made under the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of payments already agreed by the UK. “You have projects for infrastructure, transport, universities, and these only come to fruition in terms of payments several years down the line. There are thousands of people, stakeholders, companies, citizens, universities, laboratories, they have set up their projects on the basis of the promise made by the 28 member states,” he told reporters in Brussels on Thursday.
Theresa May has refused an invitation to address a public session of the European Parliament, prompting suggestions that she is unnecessarily making enemies during the Brexit process. Brussels sources say the Prime Minister was only willing to speak to MEPs behind closed doors after parliament president Antonio Tajani invited her to present her Brexit position to the elected European representatives. Margaret Thatcher famously faced the European Parliament in 1986 to argue for reforms of the then European Community’s Commons Agricultural Policy. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have also addressed the chamber; David Cameron agreed to do so but suspended his speech and resigned before it could be re-scheduled.
Jeremy Corbyn is facing a Commons rebellion next week after Eurosceptic Labour MPs accused him of ‘trying to scupper Brexit’ by blocking vital new legislation. The Labour leader was under fire after confirming he will order his MPs to oppose the EU Withdrawal Bill in a crunch Commons vote on Monday. Thirty Labour MPs have met with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer to raise concerns about the stance, warning that it will be seen as a betrayal by millions of Labour voters who backed Brexit. But, as the flagship legislation began its passage through parliament, Sir Keir confirmed that Labour is implacably opposed to it, even though it has no alternative plan for implementing Brexit.
Labour MPs are set to revolt against Jeremy Corbyn by not opposing the EU Withdrawal Bill. Graham Stringer MP said a vote against the Bill would be “an absolute breach of trust between MPs and the electorate”. Around 50 backbenchers, mostly from the Brexit heartlands of the North and Midlands, could abstain, going against the wishes of Comrade Corbyn who urged them to vote against it. One Labour MP told the Standard: “The anger is this has been decided by the shadow cabinet and handed down from on high with no consultation with the Parliamentary Labour Party. “Among traditional Labour voters who voted for Brexit it will be seen as the party wanting to block Brexit.” Corbyn’s relentless flip-flopping on Brexit looks like it’s coming back to bite him. The public voted to leave the EU and any attempt to slow that down is unacceptable.
LABOUR is trying to keep Britain in the EU by “stealth” like Hotel California, “you can check out but you can never leave”, a Conservative MP declared. Charlie Elphicke, Dover MP, voted for Remain despite his constituency voting for leave, but has since become a member of the European Research Group, a Tory body that supports Brexit. Speaking on Newsnight, Mr Elphicke said: “What you are hearing is the sound of Labour figures who want to remain in the European Union by stealth. This is Hotel California, you can check out but you can never leave. “There needs to be a defined implementation period so we get on and have a clear sense of direction that we’re going to leave the European Union by the next General Election.”
Shadow Cabinet ministers are to attend a host of anti-Brexit events at Labour conference as the party continues to backslide on leaving the EU. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott is due to speak on a panel organised by the Alliance of Free Movement group titled “Why Labour Must Support Free Movement”. Is Labour’s policy about to shift to backing free movement after Brexit? Shadow Cabinet member Owen Smith is speaking at an event hosted by Sinn Fein titled “Standing Against Brexit”. We know Owen hates Brexit and wants to reverse the result, though this is pushing collective responsibility to its limits. Not sure what Irish republicans are doing at another party’s conference in Brighton. Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer will be at the “View From the EU” event hosted by Brexit-hating Eurocrat Glenis Willmott. He will be joined by European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans and French ambassador Sylvie Bermann.
The EU’s chief negotiator says the UK’s proposals for border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic are “unacceptable”. Michel Barnier claimed the British government wanted to use Ireland as a “kind of test case” for its customs relations with the rest of the EU. He said: “The UK wants the EU to suspend the application of its laws, its customs union and its single market at what will be a new external border for the EU. “And the UK wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs relations. This will not happen.” His comments came after Brussels published a paper setting out the EU’s aims for Ireland after Brexit.
Brussels’ chief negotiator slapped down Tory David Davis’ approach to the Northern Irish border after Brexit – saying it “will not happen”. Britain wants Ireland to control the ‘final’ border between the EU and Britain, keeping free travel to the north from the Republic. But negotiator Michel Barnier slammed this approach, claiming Britain “wants the EU to suspend application of its laws” at the border and “wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case.” Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on the publication of a trenche of EU position papers, Barnier warned: “This will not happen.” Slamming David Davis’ call for “creativity and flexibility” from Brussels, he said: “Creativity and flexibility cannot be at the expense of the integrity of the single market and the customs union. “This would not be fair for Ireland and would not be fair for the EU.”
Hundreds of thousands of pupils are being forced to start GCSE courses a year early, requiring them to drop important subjects such as history and French at the age of 13. Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, said that a study by Ofsted had discovered that at least a quarter of secondary schools were expanding two-year GCSE courses to three years, “whittling away” the broad curriculum carefully designed for younger pupils. The study found that history, geography and foreign languages were the subjects most commonly dropped early. The first three years of secondary education, when a child is aged 11-14, are known as Key Stage 3.
Vice-chancellors are rebelling against government attempts to limit pay, warning that any attempt by governing boards to cut their salaries would breach employment law. Under new measures, universities will have to justify salaries higher than £150,000 to a new watchdog or be hit with fines. Vice-chancellors said that since governing boards have no powers to reduce pay once it is established in a contract, they would pay the fines rather than risk a tribunal. Jo Johnson, the universities minister, confronted vice-chancellors yesterday over failure to tackle excessive pay. One vice-chancellor told The Times: “My board cannot force a pay cut on me. They would end up at a tribunal. They will just have to take the fine.”
Ministers have been accused of “wasting millions of pounds” after abandoning the controversial sale of an NHS staffing agency. Public services union Unison protested that exploring the aborted privatisation of NHS Professionals had involved “filling the pockets of management consultants”, at a time of a recruitment crisis. The Department of Health abandoned the sale on Thursday of the agency that supplies more than 90,000 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, after failing to receive any adequate bids. The proposal had been strongly criticised because the use of NHS Professionals saves the NHS about £70m a year by supplying staff more cheaply than private sector agencies. Embarrassingly, it is the second privatisation halted within a year, after a plan to sell off the Land Registry, the body that records the ownership of property, was shelved last September.
THE government was forced into a humiliating U-turn yesterday, ditching plans to privatise the agency that provides temporary staff to hospitals. Ministers wanted to flog off a majority stake in NHS Professionals, which holds a bank of more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, midwives and other staff to supply to hospitals when needed, despite widespread opposition in Parliament and among medical professionals. The service, established by the Labour government in 2001, is wholly owned by the Department of Health and saves the NHS an estimated £70 million a year by cutting out profit-driven private staffing agencies. Health Minister Philip Dunne said in a written Commons statement that privatisation was being abandoned “after offers to buy a majority stake in the company undervalued its growing potential.”
Senior managers in the NHS enjoyed pay rises three times greater than nurses according to official figures that will add to discontent over public sector earnings. The average senior manager has seen basic pay rise 15 per cent in cash terms since 2010 while nurses have seen a 5 per cent rise on average, analysis of NHS data shows. Unions have protested that this means nurses’ real incomes have fallen significantly after adjustment for inflation, as they step up a campaign to lift a cap on public sector pay. They have reacted angrily to discovering that better-paid bosses are enjoying much bigger rises.
A final decision on Heathrow expansion could be delayed for another year, it was claimed yesterday, after the government ordered new analysis of passenger demand for a third runway. Ministers said that a “short period” of consultation would be staged this autumn to allow the public to consider new evidence on Heathrow. The government will publish updated forecasts outlining the likely scale of passenger demand for air travel over the next three decades. It follows claims that figures used to promote Heathrow over its rival Gatwick were flawed because they exaggerated the importance of the west London hub. Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, denied the process would lead to any further delay.
Ministers announced yet another consultation on plans to expand Heathrow Airport yesterday – but insisted it will not cause further delays to the project. Proposals for a third runway at the West London airport have suffered years of setbacks since first being proposed in 2003. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said yesterday that a Whitehall shut-down caused by the snap election meant the most recent air pollution data had not been available for people to comment on. In a written statement to MPs, he said this necessitated a short period of extra consultation so everyone has the chance to comment on the latest data. But he insisted the timetable for Parliamentary scrutiny of the plans would not be affected, meaning there would be no further delay.